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Sometimes you need a lot of light. Big skylights in the bathroom, overhead lights that cast a glow over the entire room, and those 150-watt bulbs that chase away the dark are all common and necessary in today’s home.

But that’s useful light. What about light that is more decorative than required? The right kind of accent lighting can turn your home from ho-hum into a showplace.

 

The basics of accent lighting

Accent lighting can serve many purposes. It can give you a little bit of extra illumination where you really need it, such as underneath your kitchen cabinets. It can lend an ambiance to a room that transforms the atmosphere with the flip of a switch. It can be used to point out something very important to the architecture of your home, such as scones on either side of a massive fireplace. It can even showcase those little things that are important to you, such as a painting that has been passed down through generations or a corner alcove that holds antique treasures.

Many design experts recommend that you have at least three light sources in every room. This allows you to mix and match the lighting to suit the mood you want to achieve. When you are choosing accent lighting, keep these points in mind.

When choosing accent lighting, go with low voltage. It might be tempting to set that small lamp on your bookcase, but if it calls for a 60 watt bulb, that’s some serious illumination for a small area. Look for small lamps that use 20 watt bulbs. Keep accent lighting and ambient lighting on separate switches or dimmers. That way you have much more control over the light that fills the room. Track lights make excellent accent lights because they can be adjusted on a whim.

Lighting and art

The light itself can be a work of art. Remember lava lamps? How about a nice Tiffany lamp? These lighting sources placed strategically around a room can bring attention to themselves, not just to a nice piece of artwork on the wall or shelf. For inexpensive lighting of your artwork, look for battery-powered spotlights. If you must use a corded light, consider clever ways to hide the cord in order to never detract from the artwork itself. Solar-powered spotlights might work wonders, depending upon how much natural light comes into that area during the day.

Strategic accent lighting

Take care to provide enough ambient and accent light that you don’t need the overhead lamps. The lights on the ceiling might chase away all the shadows, but they might also be too harsh for that lazy evening in front of the fire. Make sure you have enough accent lighting that you can leave the overheads off if you’re in the mood to do so. Go for brighter lights in the entry areas.

Though it might be tempting to showcase a nice work of art right inside the front door, that doesn’t do much to help guests who are unfamiliar with your home. A bright light that allows them to see the way is best; you can always spring the decorative light on them as soon as they are out of the foyer! In the kitchen, opt for very bright lights over the work areas, accent lighting under the cabinets and overhead lights that are on a dimmer, so you can change things up as the mood strikes you.

Accent lighting: the final touch

Accent lighting can be the perfect final touch to your home’s decor. Consider lighting at every step of your interior design planning, and you can have a gorgeous home with just the right touch of illumination.

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.